NFL Recap: Packers and Steelers, Super Bowl Bound

Ricky Rothstein | Updated Oct 04, 2017

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AFC Championship: Pittsburgh 24, New York Jets 19

In what had to be one of the most bizarre wins in his life, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger didn’t make a lot of big plays. But he did make them when it mattered. Roethlisberger completed just 10 of 19 passes for 133 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and two sacks. His passer rating was 35.5. He missed some open receivers as well. However, he completed several big third-down passes, including one for 14 yards to rookie Antonio Brown to essentially end the game.

Thankfully, Big Ben had Rashard Mendenhall in his backfield. Mendenhall had 121 yards on 27 carries and a 1-yard touchdown, comprising a big part of the ground game which churned our 43 carries for 166 yards on the day. To say the Pittsburgh ground game came up big when it counted is a major understatement — the unit ran wild in a huge playoff game against the stout Jets defense, one of the NFL’s best against the run.

Pittsburgh set the early tone with a 66-yard march that took up the first nine minutes, with Roethlisberger displaying his scrambling skills on several plays, including a key 12-yard run on third-and-12. Mendenhall reached the ball over the goal line from the 1, the final of a 15-play drive in which the Steelers pushed around Rex Ryan’s pride and joy — the aforementioned Jets D.

NFC Championship: Green Bay 21, Chicago 14

Most thought it was going to be Packers QB Aaron Rodgers that would lead his team to victory.

Those who did probably weren’t thinking about B.J. Raji.

But it was Raji, the hefty defensive tackle that made his first Pro Bowl this season, who salted the game away for Green Bay. After Bears QB Jay Cutler was KOed from the game in the first quarter, backup Caleb Hanie threw an ill-advised pass midway through the fourth quarter. That pass was picked off by Raji, who lumbered 18 yards into the end zone for a TD to give the Pack a 21-7 lead, a lead they’d never relinquish.

The Bears forced a punt and got the ball back with under 3 minutes left. Hanie drove the Bears to the Green Bay 29-yard line, then threw a fourth-down interception to Sam Shields —the rookie’s second of the game.

Now all those Pro Bowl voters who didn’t think Rodgers was worthy can relax. They’re off the hook. Rodgers will be headed to the Super Bowl instead.

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